Photo: GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry © Martine Hamilton Knight


The renewability of timber is its most important characteristic. A tree is cut down and used: it can be replanted. This sustainable process can go on indefinitely. The whole of the tree can be used utilising traditional and engineered timber techniques and biofuel, minimising waste.


Forests act as natural sinks for carbon across the world. Trees naturally lock away carbon during photosynthesis and release oxygen. This process slows as trees age, supporting a regular harvesting strategy to maximise forest carbon-capture capability. Timber grown in well-managed forests therefore helps the wider environment as well as creating a sustainable supply of building material.


Suggested Reading

Learning Resources

Module: Environmental aspects of wood

This module is a teaching aid for tutors delivering courses on the use and design of timber in engineering and architecture.


Unit: Timber as a renewable material

This unit covers the following topics: Environmental benefits of timber, deforestation and replanting.


Unit: Low carbon and timber buildings

This unit covers the following topics: carbon in association with buildings, sustainable timber production, thermal mass, the contribution of timber to sustainable construction in manufacture and build, and carbon sequestration.


Unit: Introduction to decarbonisation

This unit covers the following topics: Introduction to decarbonisation and UK emission targets.


Unit: Reusing timber

This unit covers the following topics: Reusing waste timber, recycling timber into other components, carbon capture and release.


Environmental aspects of wood: Questions 

These are questions designed to test students' understanding of the information found within the module Environmental aspects of wood. Model answers are also available for lecturers only.


Wood Information Sheets

Introducing wood 

As a construction material, timber has a very distinct advantage over the alternatives, namely that it is a living thing and therefore a renewable resource. With the use of correctly managed forests, timber represents an excellent way of creating a more sustainable construction industry.


Magazine Articles

Benign by design (2018) 

Glulam and CLT played a significant role in the carbon-neutral construction of a cutting-edge pharmaceutical research facility, explains Rick Sharp.


Low carbon: how does timber fit the bill? (2011) 

Miles Brown argues that timber can play a significant role in helping the construction industry reach its energy target. 


Timber Building Case Studies

GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry 

The GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry was designed as an exemplar of sustainability in design, construction and choice of materials, and one which would be carbon neutral over its 25 year lifetime.


The Enterprise Centre, Norwich, East Anglia 

The Enterprise Centre, a new building on the University of East Anglia (UEA) campus is an outstanding example of sustainability and low-embodied carbon construction.


Info from Other Organisations

Wood: Building the bioeconomy (2020)

CEI-Bois shows how the EU can reduce emissions by using low carbon, renewable, biological alternatives such as timber over high carbon materials such as concrete, steel and plastic.


Tackle Climate Change: Use wood (2006)

It was estimated that an annual 4% increase to 2010 in Europe's wood consumption would sequester an additional 150million tonnes of CO2 per year and that the market value of this environmental service would be about 1.8 billion per year.


Is carbon sequestration in timber buildings real? (2021)  

In this news article, Toby Maclean of Allt Environmental Structural Engineers presents a balanced argument on the benefits of sustainable forestry and timber in construction.



Biogenic materials for housing (2012) 

Biogenic is a broad term that refers to materials of biological origin. At its most wide ranging, this could include fossil fuels that owe their formation to biological activities from previous geological epochs.


From the Archive…

How to reduce climate change: Fact sheet no. 9 (2004) 

This Wood for Good fact sheet is an overview of some methods to reduce climate change, with an emphasis of the role which timber plays.


The role of wood in reducing climate change: A summary of the arguments (2004) 

Recognising the importance of wood, a naturally renewable building material, is one of the best ways of demonstrating a determination to care for the future of the world's natural resources.


Other sustainability sub-topics

Sustainable timber sourcing

Sustainable production of timber products

Sustainable building design in the circular economy

Sustainable building processes

Sustainable building life

Sustainability and health

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